Jean Knight

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Jean Knight
Knight in 1971
Background information
Birth nameJean Audrey Caliste
Born(1943-01-26)January 26, 1943
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
DiedNovember 22, 2023(2023-11-22) (aged 80)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Years active1965–2023

Jean Audrey Knight (née Caliste; January 26, 1943 – November 22, 2023) was an American R&B and soul singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Launching her professional career in the mid-1960s, Knight was best known for her 1971 hit single "Mr. Big Stuff", released by Stax Records.[1]


Early years[edit]

Jean Audrey Caliste was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 26, 1943.[2][3][4][5][6] After graduating from high school, she began singing at Laura's Place, her cousin's bar, and caught the attention of many different bands who were willing to accompany her. In 1965, she recorded a demo of a cover version of Jackie Wilson's song "Stop Doggin' Me Around."[citation needed] Her demo attracted record producer Huey Meaux, who signed her to a recording contract at the Jet Star/Tribe record labels.[6] Shortly thereafter, she adopted the professional name of "Jean Knight," because she felt that her surname Caliste was too hard to pronounce. Knight recorded four singles, making a name for herself locally, but was not able to attract any national attention. By the late 1960s, it was obvious that Knight's career was not living up to her high expectations, so she went to work as a baker in the cafeteria of St. Mary's Dominican College in New Orleans. She had been raised a Catholic.[7]

Success at Stax[edit]

In early 1970, Knight was discovered by songwriter Ralph Williams, who wanted her to record some songs. With Williams' connections, Knight came in contact with record producer Wardell Quezergue. In May of that year, Knight went to Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, for a recording session during which she recorded "Mr. Big Stuff." After the session was finished, the song was shopped to producers at several national labels, all of whom rejected it. But when King Floyd's hit "Groove Me" (also recorded at Malaco Studios) became a #1 R&B hit in early 1971, a producer at Stax Records remembered Knight's recording of "Mr. Big Stuff," and released it.[6] The song also proved to be an instant smash in 1971, reaching No. 2 on the pop chart and becoming a No. 1 R&B hit.[6] It went double-platinum and received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female; it lost to Aretha Franklin's version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It sold over two million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A.[8] Knight performed the hit song on Soul Train.[9] An album of the same name proved to be fairly successful.[1] A couple more minor hits followed,[1] but disagreements with her producer and her label terminated Knight's involvement with Stax.[citation needed]

Later years[edit]

After leaving Stax, Knight recorded songs for various small labels, but was not able to gain any more recognition,[6] and ended up performing and touring the local oldie circuit. Things changed in 1981, when Knight met local producer Isaac Bolden, who signed her to his Soulin' label. Together, they came up with a song entitled "You Got the Papers but I Got the Man," an answer song to Richard "Dimples" Fields' record, "She's Got Papers On Me"; that song was leased to Atlantic Records for national release.[6] Soon, Knight found herself touring consistently. In 1985, Knight gained more recognition when she covered Rockin' Sidney's zydeco novelty hit, "My Toot Toot,"[6] and found herself in a chart battle with Denise LaSalle's version. While LaSalle's version reached the top ten in the United Kingdom, Knight's version was the more successful in the U.S., reaching No. 50 on the pop chart.[10] Knight was then given a chance to perform it on the TV variety show Solid Gold. The song also became Knight's only hit in South Africa, reaching No. 3.[11]

Although Knight waited twelve years to come out with another recording, she continued touring and performing engagements all over the world, particularly in the Southern states. In 2003, Knight performed her biggest hit, "Mr. Big Stuff"[citation needed], on the PBS special Soul Comes Home. Knight continued to tour and make live performances, often with such artists as Gloria Gaynor. In October 2007, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored Knight for her contributions to Louisiana music by inducting her.[citation needed] Knight's song "Do Me" appeared on the 2007 Superbad soundtrack.

Personal life and death[edit]

Knight was married at least twice and had at least one child.[12] Knight married Thomas Commedore and together they had a son.[12] In the early 1970s, Knight was married to New Orleans longshoreman Earl Harris.[12]

Knight died at a hospital in Tampa, Florida, on November 22, 2023, at the age of 80.[2][13][14][15] Issuing a statement on her death her family said: "Beyond touring, recording studios, Ms. Knight loved cooking delicious Creole dishes for family and friends, celebrated Mardi Gras with several local krewes, and proudly served on the Louisiana Music Commission."[16]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Record label
1971 Mr. Big Stuff 60 8 Stax
1981 Keep It Comin (with Premium) Cotillion Records
1985 My Toot Toot[6] 181 Mirage
1997 Shaki de Boo-Tee Ichiban Records
1999 Queen ComStar
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Compilation albums[edit]

  • 1997: The Very Best of Me


Year Single Chart positions Album
US Hot 100
South Africa
1964 "The Man That Left Me"
"Doggin Around"
Non-album singles
"Lonesome Tonight"
1965 "T'ain't It the Truth"
"I'm Glad for Your Sake"
"Anyone Can Love Him"
"A Tear"
1971 "Mr. Big Stuff"
"Anyone Can Keep Living These Memories"
2 1 Mr. Big Stuff
"You Think You're Hot Stuff"
"Don't Talk About Jody"
57 19 Mr. Big Stuff
(included on the album as a bonus track after the album's re-release)
1972 "Carry On"
"Call Me Your Fool (If You Want To)"
"Helping Man"
"Pick Up the Pieces"
"Do Me"
"Save the Last Kiss for Me"
1973 "Jesse Joe (You Got to Go)"
Non-album singles
1975 "Don't Ask for 24 Hours"
"Hold Back the Night"
"Jesse James Is an Outlaw"
"Hold Back the Night"
1976 "What One Man Won't Do Another Man Will"
"Rudy Blue"
1981 "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do As Well As You)"
Keep It Comin'
"You Got the Papers but I Got the Man"
"Anything You Can Do (I Can Do as Well as You)"
(as Jean Knight & Premium)
1983 "La De De - La De Da" (Vocal)
"La De De - La De Da" (Instrumental, Sing-A-Long Track)
Non-album single
1985 "My Toot Toot"
"My Heart Is Willing (and My Body Is Too)"
50 59 62 3 My Toot Toot
"Let the Good Times Roll"
1990 "Mama's Baby" (Rap)
"Mama's Baby" (Instrumental)
Non-album single
1997 "Bill"
"Bus Stop"
Shaki De Boo-Tee
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Huey, Steve. "Biography: Jean Knight". AllMusic. Retrieved July 26, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Sandomir, Richard (November 28, 2023). "Jean Knight, Who Struck Platinum With 'Mr. Big Stuff,' Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  3. ^ "Biography: The Official Jean Knight Website". Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  4. ^ Eagle, Bob L.; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues: A Regional Experience. Abc-Clio. p. 183. ISBN 9780313344244.
  5. ^ Jancik, Wayne (1998). The Billboard Book of One-hit Wonders. Billboard Books. p. 302. ISBN 9780823076222.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  7. ^ Higgins, Chester (August 12, 1971). "Jean Knight: New 'Big Stuff' of Show Biz". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. p. 59.
  8. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 296. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  9. ^ "Soul Train - Season 1, Episode 11: Jean Knight/ The Delfonics/ Maurice Jackson/ Ralphi Pagan". December 11, 1971. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Jean Knight - Awards". AllMusic. Archived from the original on March 13, 2016. Retrieved April 7, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Brian Currin (May 25, 2003). "South African Rock Lists Website - SA Charts 1969 - 1989 Acts (K)". Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Higgins, Chester (August 12, 1971). "Jean Knight: New 'Big Stuff' of Show Biz". Jet. Vol. 40, no. 20. Johnson Publishing Company. pp. 56–59. ISSN 0021-5996.
  13. ^ "Jean Knight 'Mr. Big Stuff' Singer Dead at 80". TMZ. November 26, 2023. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  14. ^ Legaspi, Althea (November 27, 2023). "Jean Knight, 'Mr. Big Stuff' Singer, Dead at 80". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  15. ^ Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (November 27, 2023). "Jean Knight, soul and funk singer who had hit with Mr Big Stuff, dies aged 80". The Guardian. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  16. ^ Walcott, Escher (November 27, 2023). "Jean Knight, Legendary 'Mr. Big Stuff' Singer, Dead at 80". People. Retrieved November 27, 2023.
  17. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 169. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

External links[edit]